Last month a leading cardiologist threw conventional dietary advice under the bus when he stated, “We actually found that increasing fats was protective” and other blasphemy at Cardiology Update 2017 held last month. Salim Yusuf shared findings from the PURE study, an epidemiological effort observing 140,000 subjects from over 17 countries. MedPageToday reported a summary of the findings on February 27.
By March 2, MedPageToday published a swift and severe reaction from the conventional nutrition expert community. No surprise here.
WHICH NUTRITION EXPERTS DO WE BELIEVE?
Med Page Today quoted David Katz, MD, Marion Nestle, PhD, and Yoni Freedhoff criticism the findings. Katz and Nestle doubled down on the importance of more vegetables and unsaturated fat along with less meat and saturated fat in the diet. Freedhoff observed, “I’m not sure trading premature and perhaps dogmatic low-fat advice, for premature and perhaps dogmatic high-fat advice is supported by the medical literature to date”, however he stands by conventional nutrition advice to choose unsaturated fats over saturated fat.
The push back makes me wonder if any of these experts have been reading the literature for the past five years. Or possibly their vested interests and egos keep them from seriously considering research that doesn’t conform to their entrenched beliefs. As Nina Teicholtz quipped on her Facebook page, “The science has evolved.”
WE’RE ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION
An exhaustive review of the literature by Nina Teicholtz in Big Fat Surprise upends conventional thinking about fat, especially saturated fat in the diet. Unfortunately, the nutrition standoff conventional and emerging hypotheses regarding a healthful diet exposes a more challenging dilemma.
Too many nutrition scientists seem stuck in the belief that we should be able to recommend dietary guidelines that work for everyone. While a laudable public health goal, we will miss the mark as long as advice hinges on a single dietary approach.
Despite the outrage voiced by conventional nutrition experts, not one addressed the core problem. Currently studies are set up to answer the wrong question”Which is the best diet?” The “wrong” answer to this misguided question threatens reputations, egos, and invested corporate players.
Currently the lower fat, plant based diet crowd promotes unsaturated fats over saturated fats and continues to recommended eating less animal protein. Those looking more critically at the past research suggest excessive carbohydrate, specifically more refined starches and sugars, drive metabolic disease. In this world, animal proteins and fats are healthful, especially when balanced with high quality plant foods, including vegetables, fruit, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds.
THE SCIENCE HAS EVOLVED, BUT EXPECTATIONS HAVEN’T
This binary approach to nutrition science ignores the fact that both genetics and a multitude of epigenetic factors influence our metabolic needs. We don’t share the same genetics, and from the moment of conception outside factors shape how our body functions metabolically. Why does anyone think there is one approach to food that work equally well for every one of us?
While consumers suffer greater confusion about what to eat, nutrition scientists and clinicians need to evolve themselves. All of us need to recognize that there is no one right way to eat. However, I’m not holding my breath.
Bruised egos and vested interests are on display for everyone to witness. I’m embarrassed that so many reputable scientists display a fixed mind set which doesn’t seem very scientific. In the meantime, I’m reminded of a favorite quote I read in an medical journal editorial. “Sometimes you have to wait for the old guys to die” (sic)